Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I’ve Learned Teaching Wren to Read: It’s All in the Unsexy

I knew instinctively I was not meant to teach kindergarten.  I actually only obtained my teaching certificate because I majored in English but did not want to be a starving artist.  Mainly, the starving part did not interest me.  I taught junior high for six years.  People called me weird.

I called people who taught K-4 weird because besides lots of boogers, kids asking you to unzip their pants (my response: wet your pants, but I am not touching you.  That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen, my friend) and the noise level, K-4 teachers teach foundational skills.  Reading, writing, math, they teach the basics.  By 8th grade if a kid can’t read, I blame their parents and their K-7th grade teachers.  I will totally choose a scapegoat, and by the time they are 13, I have plenty of options.

Recently I’ve come to this realization: as a homeschooling mom, I will be the one teaching my kids foundational skills like the ones mentioned above.  I’m totally excited about this.  And I am fairly petrified at there being no one to blame if this does not go well.  Except, of course, myself. 

Wren has wanted to read forever and memorized The Very Hungry Caterpillar before the age of two.  She called it reading, though it was just awesome memorization.  We’ve been working on memorizing words and phonics as well as reading small books with a lot of repetitive words.  It’s so great to watch her develop and grow in this area.

Okay, so here’s another truth:  It can be frustrating.  I taught English for six years to smelly 8th grade-attitude-filled adolescence, but sometimes it is harder to watch my five-year-old say the word “can” and then four words later see the same word and say “water?” in a voice that thinks the word water might actually be an option.  It’s can!  For the love of all that is good, the word is can!  You’ve said it 17 times in the span of four pages!

My goal is not to get frustrated, to be very encouraging, and to remember that I don’t remember learning to read, which means patient individuals went through this same process with me and made it so beautifully seamless and uplifting that I assume I emerged from the womb reading Tolstoy.  That’s what I want for my kids. 

In re-reading Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey talks a lot about doing the “unsexy” work over and over for the glory of God.  She believes “that there aren’t actually any big things for God.”  I mean, He is God so what’s so big it’s just going to knock His socks off?  But Bessey quotes Mother Teresa and says “there are only small things being done over and over with great love.”

I think that’s what teaching your kids to read falls under, unsexy work done repeatedly, multiple opportunities to shower a child with the love of Christ instead of the impatience of humanity.  Time spent that makes a difference, not only because of the education a child receives but because of the love that is hopefully shown in these daily, monotonous, sometimes frustrating tasks. 

This time together reading Fly Guy, Fancy Nancy, and Biscuit books has shown me that no matter how many times the word “can” somehow turns into the word “water” in Wren’s mind, my response should always be the same:  loving reassurance, assistance, encouragement.  She’s doing great, and she’s learning.  One day she might not want me to listen to her read 17 books in a day, and I will miss that.  I want to be able to look back at these days and remember all the fun we had and that I taught her important things:  how to read and how to do unsexy things really well for the glory of God.

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